A student meets a Cisco recruiter at the fall career fair.
The word is out: NJIT students make the best employees.
And that’s why 200 employers came to interview thousands of them at this week’s NJIT Career Fair.
With hundreds of recruiters ensconced at tables and 2,400 dressed-for-success students with resumes at the ready, the career fair spilled over into two gymnasiums. It was a capacity crowd, so much so that 30 employers had to be placed on a waiting list, said Gregory Mass, the executive director of Career Development Services. Employers came from all across the country -- 22 states -- to recruit NJIT students.
“The capacity turnout coincides with national trends showing that hiring for college grads, and in particular for STEM grads, has increased for five years in a row,” Mass said.
NJIT is ranked nationally for the professional success of its graduates.
This summer, for example, the Brookings Institute reported that NJIT was one of the nation’s top 10 schools that “… provided the greatest value-added boost to their alumni in the occupational earnings power category.”
And while the university has grown quantitatively, with new classrooms and labs and a record enrollment of more than 11,000 students, it has also grown qualitatively: The incoming freshman class is by one important measure -- SAT scores -- the smartest ever at NJIT. The school’s growing reputation for academic and professional success is what’s attracting national employers to campus, Mass said.
“NJIT is no longer the best-kept secret,” added Mass. “It’s a university with a growing national reputation, especially for the earning power of its graduates, both mid-career grads and young grads.”
Interestingly, many young NJIT grads attended yesterday’s career fair -- not to find better jobs but to recruit students.
Kristina Ippolito, who graduated from the Albert Dorman Honors College in 2013, was one of them. Ippolito works now as a Project Superintendent for Judlau Contracting, a company with major engineering projects in New York City. While a civil engineering student, she interned for two summers at Judlau. She excelled at her internships and after she graduated the company offered her a full-time job. She’s doing so well in her work that a vice president asked her to attend the fair and “recruit students just like you,” recalled Ippolito. She was happy to oblige.
“I love my job and my company so I’m happy to come to NJIT to recruit students for jobs and internships,” she said.
Companies are increasingly hiring young students, even freshmen, to work as summer interns. If a student performs well on an internship, the companies will hire him or her for a second internship, after which they often offer the intern a full-time job. That’s what happened to Ippolito. And that’s precisely the way that hundreds of NJIT students have gotten their jobs.
“There’s an emerging hiring trend that has garnered national attention this year,” said Mass, “and it’s called ‘recruit once, hire twice.’”
The phrase refers to the practice of employers who recruit interns and later hire them again after they graduate as full-time employees. While this hiring strategy has been in place for decades it has recently taken off, with many NJIT interns receiving job offers as much as nine months before they graduate.
“These students get to enjoy their final year of college without fretting about whether they’ll land a good job,” said Mass, “while employers maximize a return on their training by retaining great employees. And our students -- technically-skilled and problem-solvers by nature -- make great employees.”
Consider, for example, Kim Lam, a senior majoring in mechanical engineering in the Albert Dorman Honors College. She has a 4.0 GPA and is a campus leader. She’s president of the Society of Women Engineers (SWE) and is a senator in the SWE Region Collegiate Team. Lam attended what is known as the “reverse career fair,” where recruiters met with student leaders. She wore a wide smile as she talked to the recruiters and this is why: During the 2014 Fall Career Fair, Lam was offered an internship at Lockheed Martin, one of the largest defense-contractors in the world. At the end of the summer at Lockheed Martin, she was offered a job there, starting when she graduates, as an associate member engineer.
“I'm very excited to move onto my career at Lockheed Martin,” said Lam, “I received the offer at the end of the summer, a few weeks following my internship. The summer internship was basically a 10-week interview for my full-time position -- and it worked!”
Matt Reda has been at NJIT for just a month: He’s a freshman but he came to the career fair nonetheless -- resume in hand, big smile -- with the intention of finding an internship. He majors in mechanical engineering and wants to work as an aerospace engineer for NASA. He knows he needs work experience and wants to get as much of it as he can.
“I want to get as many internships as I can before I graduate,” said Reda.” I want the experience and also want to learn as many different aspects of engineering as possible.”
He visited with several recruiters at the fair and he is hoping he’ll get an offer from Hensel Phelps, whose recruiter, Robert McElroy, Reda met with twice -- once in the gym and once again in the campus center.
“I was pretty confident when I spoke with him,” says Reda, “and I'm waiting to hear from him.”
One of the young recruiters at the fair, Amy Cilento, is a definitive example of every trend mentioned. She’s a young NJIT alum with a great job; she attended the fair to recruit students for her company, Optum Technology, a division of Unitedhealth Group; and as a student she had an internship at Panasonic, which made her more marketable. At Optum, her job title is technology development program associate; she uses big data analytics to streamline health care data.
She loves her job and loved her years at NJIT (she graduated from the Honors College in 2013 and received a master’s in 2014, both in biomedical engineering). Her company thinks so well of her that it asked her to attend the fair and recruit students for internships and full-time jobs. Cilento was joined by two fellow Optum employees who are also NJIT alums: Nisarg Patel (math major, 2014) and Dominick Cirillo (business major, 2011).
“We’ve done well at our jobs and we always tell our superiors that hiring NJIT students is the way to go,” said Cirillo, an IT consultant for Optum. “We always promote hiring NJIT students.”
Yet another young NJIT grad recruiting at the career fair was Cindy Manrique. She graduated in 2014 with a degree in construction engineering technology. She works as a field engineer for Gilbane Building Company, and said she volunteered to attend the career fair.
“I wanted to make sure NJIT students are aware of Gilbane and its great work culture,” said Manrique. “Also, when I was a student NJIT gave me so many great opportunities – I had great professors and two great internships. I’m happy to return to NJIT and share great job opportunities with the talented students here.”
Talented students tend to turn into talented employees. And sometimes, one talented employee can change a company’s recruiting practices. And that’s precisely what happened with John Canela, who graduated from NJIT in May 2015 with a degree in Information Technology. He was not only a top student but he has outstanding interpersonal skills and is an outspoken champion for minority engineers.
Canela works now as an IT engineer at Cisco, a major Silicon Valley company. Before he was hired, Canela had excelled on an internship at Cisco, during which he invited a senior director, Ileana Rivera, to visit NJIT. Her visit sparked a relationship between NJIT and Cisco. More recently, Canela connected with Cisco’s IT University Program and arranged for the company to send three recruiters to the career fair. It was the first time Cisco recruited at NJIT. And working with the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE) at NJIT, he arranged for NJIT students to attend an information session with Cisco recruiters. Canela, along with two other young NJIT alums working at Cisco, Waydon Destin and Chris Sam, joined the info session from their offices by way of Cisco Telepresence.
Asked to explain why he worked so hard to establish a bond between his employer – Cisco – and his university – NJIT, Canela said:
“I wouldn't be where I am today without NJIT, the Educational Opportunity Program and SHPE. It took a lot of persistence to be where I am today. My hope is that students will take advantage of the opportunity and that one day NJIT will have a strong presence at Cisco."
By Robert Florida (firstname.lastname@example.org)